The annual education statistics report yet again reveals disturbing trends in the education system that has been embroiled in major upheavals last year mainly due to the pandemic. 

Despite being the highest-paid civil servants, 224 teachers voluntarily resigned this year. Altogether 353 teachers exited the education system, including those who superannuated or whose contract term expired. There are 9,018 public school teachers in both primary and secondary schools.

On average more than 300 teachers leave their jobs annually. After a dip in 2019, the attrition rate is rising again.

The government has recognised the importance of teachers, the need to raise the quality of education, and allocated a good proportion of the budget to the sector. But the discussion on retaining teachers has been going on for a long time and we are still grappling with the more difficult task of translating suggestions into action. 

Teachers have the responsibility of preparing future generations for their lives and their responsibilities. A nation’s future is in the hands of the youth and our youth are in the hands of the teachers. But left to teachers alone, because we think it is their job, our purpose will suffer. It is necessary, therefore, that strict conditions are applied to force parents to take part in school activities. Parents need to understand that archery, cards, and movies must come second to our children. 

The past year has been difficult for all of us. The pandemic has pushed us out of our comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory. This is most true of our teachers. While schools remained closed, they conducted lessons from within the confines of their homes. Many struggled with recording lessons on digital media and interacting with students on virtual platforms. On the other hand, it was also an equally rewarding experience as many teachers rose to the occasion, championed online teaching mode. 

We know that our teachers are working in over-populated classrooms with limited time to prepare for lessons. We also know that a number of teachers are not teaching because of their love for the profession but for the need for a job. And those already in the profession are in need of more training and exposure.

With the launch of new curriculum and assessments, teachers are the prime drivers of these reforms. However, authorities must tread cautiously not to overburden them. We have to explore ways to reduce their workload and ensure a decent work life balance. For an overworked teacher tasked with excessive responsibilities can only do so much. In other words, they need to have a life not just make a living.